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Saturday, 13 June 2015

Kamen Rider x Kamen Rider Drive & Gaim - Movie Wars Full Throttle

Kamen Rider x Kamen Rider Drive & Gaim - 
Movie Wars Full Throttle.

Unfortunately, I cannot recommend that anyone watch this film. While you may well enjoy yourself, the ending will bring the Gaim finale flooding back to you all at once, and nobody wants that. Nobody needs that. It is better, maybe, not to have that in your lives.

(You know, it's just occurred to me that I don't remember the Wizard & Gaim crossover at all. Did it ... did it even have one?)

Set some time after Gaim and about a third of the way through Drive, Movie Wars Full Throttle is the standard Movie Wars fare of a three part film. In Gaim's part, Kouta and Mai's new world is disturbed by the arrival of the high-tech Megahex, a machine that wants to assimilate all life into itself. Defeating Kouta easily, Megahex opens a portal to Earth, where it comes into conflict with the Kureshima brothers. In Drive's part, Shinnosuke and Kiriko are on the trail of Lupin, a Roimyude phantom thief who intends to steal the title of 'Kamen Rider' from Shinnosuke. As they track him, it quickly becomes clear that Chase is also after Lupin, and that Krim may know more than he's letting on. Finally, in the crossover part, Kouta and Shinnosuke meet up in Zawame City to face off against a newly upgraded Megahex, and the Megahex homeworld.

Since these are essentially three different short films, I may as well break them down by part.

The Gaim part, the first of the three, is far and away the strongest - in fact, if I'm being honest, the qualitative differences between it and the Drive part mirror the differences between the two actual series. It's not really Kouta's story - he shows up at the beginning and end, but he's mostly absent from it: Instead, it's very much Micchy and Takatora's film, focusing on their individual drives to redeem themselves and to avoid making the mistakes of their pasts. If I'm being entirely honest, you could probably create a longer film out of that, and with all the action that plot doesn't get the attention it deserves, but there's still a clear character arc for both of them.

I do really like Melon Energy Arms.

The action scenes in this part are pretty strong, as they always were in Gaim. The opening battle between Kouta and Megahex is Dragonball Z levels of over the top, and the other battles are kept relatively short and sweet, with a distinct focus on the characters' emotional struggles. We also get a new Arms, in the form of Kamen Rider Duke Dragonfruit Energy Arms, which may well be my favourite design out of the Gaim riders.

I mean, look at it.

I do wish that the other riders had been given a little more screentime - Zack, Jonouchi, and Oren all show up, but they're cameos at best. That said, I understand that there's a pretty severe time limit placed on this parts, seeing as they are essentially slightly longer episodes.

I also wish that they'd gone with physical props to represent Megahex's assimilation, rather than CGI. There is a reason for this - Megahex's assimilation is shown as surfaces taking on a glowy blue pattern, and due to the obvious CGI costs involved in that, what it generally amounts to is one or two buildings in the background being assimilated and nothing else. What they could have done is created a visual comparison with Helheim by having the assimilation appear as blue and grey wires (and maybe cube shaped 'fruit') - this would allow them to create an omnipresent assimilation effect for a much lower cost.

(Apparently there was a Gaim & Wizard crossover, called The Fateful Sengoku Movie Battle. It really isn't ringing a bell, though.)

The Drive part is - ehergh. To its credit, it throws us straight into the action, with Lupin committing a daring theft, but I found myself getting bored very quickly. I was never given much of a reason to care about Lupin or catching him, and I felt very little emotional connection to the events of the film. It felt very workmanlike, and yet also very sloppy, and I had trouble maintaining my attention enough to keep up with the relatively simple plot.

This is not unique to this third-of-a-film, it's what I usually feel during Movie Wars parts - I felt it for almost all of Double & Decade, for OOO's part of OOO & Double, and for the entirety of Fourze & OOO, and those were all series that I very much enjoyed - but the problems are exacerbated when you throw Drive, which often feels sloppy and passionless and poorly paced already, into the mix.

I'm sure you'll blend right in and absolutely nobody will think you're a phantom thief.

The film's big attempt to make us care, by having Krim be shot by a bullet and seemingly die, did almost manage to make me feel something - but he's revived with almost no explanation, and it doesn't feel earned. Neither, if I'm being honest, does Shinnosuke's defeat of Lupin, who previously had repeatedly bested him, feel earned, because it just happens with no real struggle. Which is a shame, because there are a couple of ways they could have gone about that: Had Chase and Shinnosuke team up against him (as it is, they do team up, but Chase is left fighting mooks while Shinnosuke duels Lupin); have Shinnosuke use his detective skills to locate a weakness; or even just have Shinnosuke and Krim push themselves to their limits to throw their all into the battle, throwing finisher after finisher, bringing in the Tridoron to help, and using the environment to their advantage. Something. Something other than 'Shinnosuke and Krim are best buds', please.

That would also help with the other problem of the film, which is that the action scenes feel weak, lifeless, and too long. It's a problem with Drive that I've railed on before, but in this case, it's also a problem that tends to affect Movie Wars pretty heavily. Not helping is that Lupin is kind of meh as a villain rider - he's forgettable, both in design, personality, and abilities.

I did want to like this part of the film, because I really have no interest in being one of those people who constantly complains about the current series and wishes it was like the previous one. Gaim is a tough act to follow, though, and in this case did just have the better written part.

That leaves the crossover part, which as expected, is entirely action. It is very fun action, though - a large chunk of it is devoted to having Shinnosuke and Kouta interact, and they make a very fun pair, and it has some great comedic moments, with the prize for funniest moment going to Shinnosuke helping Kouta put on his seatbelt. It's all good fun, and worth watching, and apart from that there isn't really much to say. 

There's a car chase scene?

Well, there is one thing: The ending, which sees a resurrected Kaito dying once more, and Kouta and Mai leaving again, hit me pretty hard. I hadn't been holding out hope that everything would be put right, and it would have cheapened the ending of the series if that had happened, but I had hoped that one of those three's fates would have been changed: Kaito getting to remain alive, maybe. In hindsight, I should have realised that that wasn't possible.

Overall, one of the strongest Movie Wars I've seen. The Gaim part and crossover part are both excellent, and the Drive part, while pretty terrible, is far from the worst part I've ever seen in one of these films. But still, do not watch this film. It will kiss you in every beautiful place so that you can never go there without tasting it like blood in your mouth yada yada yada Caitlyn Siehl yada yada yada why storms are named after tokusatsu franchises yada yada.

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